Kwita Izina 2015: Rwanda Naming Ceremony for Baby Gorillas

On September 5, 2015, the Rwanda Development Board hosted Kwita Izina 2015. Now in its 11th year, Kwita Izina is an annual event attended by thousands of international, regional, and local participants, in which the naming of baby gorillas recently born takes place. I was invited to attend this prestigious event in Rwanda, where a select number of guests choose a meaningful name for the baby gorillas.

This year, 24 baby gorillas were named – the newest arrivals born after last year’s ceremony.

Kwita Izina dancers | Photo credit: Rwanda Development Board
Kwita Izina dancers | Photo credit: Rwanda Development Board

Kwita Izina is inspired by the ancient Rwandan tradition of naming babies soon after they are born. This year the theme was “conserving now and for the future”. Before 2005, which marked the first public celebration of naming gorillas, the Volcanoes National Park management – including trackers, rangers and researchers, used to organize a small ceremony often in the format of a staff meeting.

The current format as a national event, which takes place at the foot of the Virunga Mountains, serves multiple purposes, including conservation awareness. The gorilla trackers realize the value of their work, and take pride in increasing their dedication to safeguard the valued habitat.

Men dressed as gorillas is part of the celebration
Men in costume partaking in the celebration | Photo credit: Rwanda Development Board
Huge crowds, including school children, gather for the ceremony
Huge crowds gather for the ceremony | Photo credit: Rwanda Development Board

There is nothing that can prepare you for seeing these remarkable creatures and getting to spend a magical hour with them as they go about their daily life. I was fortunate enough to spend time with the Sabinyo gorilla family, which includes “Guhonda” – the oldest known silverback, Big Ben – the only known bald blackback gorilla, as well as a baby gorilla born in May, 2015.

Big Ben
Big Ben
This little baby gorilla of the Sabinyo family (born May 2015) will be named next year!
This little baby gorilla of the Sabinyo family (born May 2015) will be named next year!

Suggested Itineraries: 
3-Day Mountain Gorilla Encounter
6-Day Gorillas Galore

(Main photo: Recently named Ikirezi with her mother | photo credit: Rwanda Development Board)

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Kirsty Perring
Kirsty Perring

Africa Experts Product Manager – Although British born and now Toronto based, Kirsty grew up in South Africa and is completely passionate about all things Africa. She finds it hard to choose a favourite destination, but lists Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, and Botswana as some of the most special places she has visited, and feels it’s not just about where you go and what you see, but who you get to experience it with. Kirsty is always up for an adventure and will try anything once. As such, she has para-glided in South Africa, zip lined in Mauritius, dived the Red Sea, hot air ballooned in Egypt, and even swam in the Okavango Delta. Next on Kirsty’s bucket list is to climb Kilimanjaro!

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